Start-up scores a hit with reruns channel

A seven-month-old cable TV channel here is breathing new life into old hits and giving established rivals a run for their money.

Focusing on reruns of evergreen American TV shows, such as The Cosby Show, Taxi and Golden Girls, the Hits channel on StarHub's cable TV service was recently ranked the third most-watched of 14 general-entertainment channels among adults aged 25 and older, between March and June this year. The other 13 channels in the survey by Kantar Media included established ones, such as AXN, WarnerTV, Fox, Star World, Diva Universal and Lifetime.

Mr Avi Himatsinghani, founder and chief executive officer of Rewind Networks, the company behind Hits, said: "As a small player in a turf of big players, we are humbled by the support of our viewers."

He considers being in third place a great achievement for his lean start-up, which is eight-man strong. Hits is Rewind Networks' first service and is currently available only in Singapore on Channels 519 and 520 as part of StarHub's basic package of pay TV channels.

Channel 519 is its linear channel, while Hits Replay on Channel 520 is the catch-up video-on-demand channel, where viewers can watch replays of episodes shown over the preceding two weeks.

It is the only channel here which focuses purely on such reruns. Mr Himatsinghani is careful to avoid calling them "old shows", noting that there is still demand for such shows from adult viewers.

A pay TV industry veteran of 17 years, he was previously general manager of Fox International Channels for South-east Asia. Traditional pay TV still has a place, he thinks, despite the rise of pure video-on-demand, Netflix and other streaming services, as well as the growing availability of pirated content.

Joining Mr Himatsinghani is industry veteran Sandie Lee, vice-president and channel head of Rewind Networks. She has about 30 years of experience in content acquisition. She started with TCS, or Television Corporation of Singapore (now MediaCorp) in the early 1980s and joined StarHub in the early 1990s. Ms Lee was the first person who Mr Himatsinghani hired.

She said: "We have to make it easy for people to watch TV and to remember when to watch."

So, all the shows on Hits start on the hour or half-hour mark. No new episodes are aired on weekends, which is devoted to replays of all the episodes aired during the week.

On Sundays, between 7pm and 9.30pm, for instance, all five episodes of The Cosby Show for the week are aired back to back.

While Mr Himatsinghani remains a fan of good old channel surfing, he believes that embracing the Internet is also important.

Both channels are available on StarHub's TV Anywhere website and mobile app. There is also a Hits app on the Apple and Google Play app stores.

The stand-alone app is a pointer to the company's regional ambitions. Rewind plans to expand to pay TV providers elsewhere in South-east Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

This article was first published on July 16, 2014.
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